Syrian Army, Opposition Confirm Nationwide Truce

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY AND THE HINDUSTAN TIMES NEWSPAPER)

Syria army, opposition confirm nationwide truce

WORLD Updated: Dec 29, 2016 21:19 IST

AFP
AFP
AFP, Damascus

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A boy walks his bike near stacked sandbags in al-Rai town, northern Aleppo province, Syria. (Reuters)

Syria’s army said Thursday it would halt all military operations from midnight under a truce deal brokered by Russia and Turkey and supported by a leading Syrian opposition body.The agreement was announced earlier by Russian President Vladimir Putin who said the Syrian regime and “main forces of the armed opposition” had signed on.“The general command of the armed forces announces a complete halt to all hostilities on Syrian territory from the zero hour of December 30th,” Syria’s army said in a statement carried on state television.

It said that the ceasefire excluded the Islamic State group and the former Al-Qaeda affiliate previously known as Al-Nusra Front, now rebranded the Fateh al-Sham Front.

The National Coalition, a leading Syrian political opposition group based in Turkey, confirmed its backing for the truce.

“The National Coalition expresses support for the agreement and urges all parties to abide by it,” spokesman Ahmed Ramadan told AFP.

He said key rebel groups including the powerful Ahrar al-Sham and Army of Islam factions had signed the ceasefire deal, though there was no immediate confirmation from rebel representatives.

“The agreement includes a ceasefire in all areas held by the moderate opposition, or by the moderate opposition and elements from Fateh al-Sham, such as Idlib province,” he told AFP.

Idlib, in northwest Syria, is controlled by an alliance of rebel groups led by Fateh al-Sham.

Read| Turkey, Russia to implement Syria ceasefire before New Year: Turkish minister

The group, in its previous incarnation as Al-Nusra, was designated a “terrorist” organisation by countries including the United States, as well as the United Nations.

The ceasefire agreement follows the recapture by Syria’s government of the country’s second city Aleppo from rebels, in the worst blow to opposition forces since the war began.

It will be the first nationwide halt in fighting since a week-long truce from September 12-19 that collapsed after several incidents of violence.

A previous truce was implemented in February. Both of those deals were organised by Russia and the United States.

The latest agreement is the first nationwide ceasefire brokered with the involvement of Turkey, a backer of the Syrian opposition.

Russia is a key supporter of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and began a military intervention in support of his government in September 2015.

Despite backing opposing sides in the conflict, and a souring of relations after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane last year, Ankara and Moscow have worked increasingly closely on Syria.

They jointly brokered a ceasefire for Aleppo this month that allowed the last remaining rebels and civilians in the city’s east to leave to opposition territory elsewhere.

More than 310,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with protests against Assad’s government.

Successive bids to reach a peace deal to end the conflict have failed, but Moscow has said it is planning to convene new negotiations in Kazakhstan.

And the army statement said the ceasefire was intended to “create conditions to support the political track” in resolving the conflict.

Russia And The U.S. Must Work Together As Friends If The World Is To Be A Safer Place

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME MAGAZINE)

Donald Trump on Letter From Vladimir Putin: ‘His Thoughts Are So Correct’

RUSSIA-POLITICS-PUTIN
Natalia Kolesnikova—AFP/Getty ImagesRussian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his annual press conference in Moscow on Dec. 23, 2016.

‘I hope both sides are able to live up to these thoughts’

President-elect Donald Trump on Friday released a letter he received from Vladimir Putin and praised the Russian president by saying “his thoughts are so correct.”

“A very nice letter from Vladimir Putin; his thoughts are so correct,” Trump said in a statement, along with the letter, which is dated Dec. 15. “I hope both sides are able to live up to these thoughts, and we do not have to travel an alternate path.”

In the attached letter—which is marked as an unofficial translation—Putin wished Trump well and said he hoped to “bring our level of collaboration on the international scene to a qualitatively new level.”

At his annual news conference Friday, Putin dismissed accusations from U.S. intelligence officials that Russia interfered in the U.S. presidential election. Putin also said Russia was not seeking a new nuclear arms race, the New York Times reported, after Trump said Thursday that the U.S. should “greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability.”

“Serious global and regional challenges, which our countries have to face in recent years, show that the relations between Russia and the U.S. remain an important factor in ensuring stability and security of the modern world,” Putin wrote in the letter as released by Trump.

“I hope that after you assume the position of the President of the United States of America we will be able—by acting in a constructive and pragmatic manner—to take real steps to restore the framework of bilateral cooperation in different areas as well as bring our level of collaboration on the international scene to a qualitatively new level.”

John Kerry Concerned by Rhetoric Out of Turkey And Russia Saying U.S. Involved In Ambassador Karlov Murder

 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

BEIRUT — The Latest on the development in the Syrian civil war and the aftermath of the assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey (all times local):

11:45 p.m.

John Kerry’s spokesman says the U.S. Secretary of State has raised concerns about “some of the rhetoric coming out of Turkey with respect to American involvement or support, tacit or otherwise, for this unspeakable assassination yesterday because of the presence of Mr. Gulen here in the United States.”

Spokesman John Kirby said called any such claims ludicrous and false.

“We need to let the investigators do their job and we need to let the facts and the evidence take them where it is before we jump to conclusions,” Kirby added. “But any notion that the United States was in any way supportive of this or behind this or even indirectly involved is absolutely ridiculous.”

A Turkish Foreign Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government rules, earlier said that Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told Kerry that both Turkey and Russia “know” that a movement led by U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen was behind the attack.

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11:15 p.m.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has spoken by telephone with the foreign ministers of Russia and Turkey after a meeting.

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State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters the U.S. “welcomes any effort to try to get a cease-fire in Syria that can actually have meaningful results, particularly for those people that remain in Aleppo, as well as the resumption of political talks.”

Kirby said that Kerry also “stressed the need to try to get those political talks back on track as soon as people,” adding that it was “too soon to know” if the Moscow declaration would have any impact.

“Given that the meeting just broke up today and given the fact that we have seen repeated promises to appropriately influence the Assad regime … fail, I think we really need to wait and ascertain the results over the next coming days,” he said.

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9:45 p.m.

Israel’s prime minister says he would like to grant medical assistance to Syrians wounded in the battle over the city of Aleppo.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told members of the foreign press in Jerusalem on Tuesday that he has asked Israel’s Foreign Ministry to look into the possibility of bringing non-combatant men, women and children to Israel for medical treatment.

Israel has treated thousands of Syrians wounded in Syria’s nearly six-year civil war, offering them medical treatment in hospitals in Israel.

Netanyahu told reporters, “We see the terrible tragedy of civilians and I’ve asked the Foreign Ministry to seek ways to expand our medical assistance to the civilian casualties of the Syrian tragedy, specifically in Aleppo.”

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8 p.m.

Syrian TV says a bomb has gone off in western Aleppo where dozens of people were gathered for a Christmas tree-lighting event.

No injuries were reported from Tuesday’s bomb, which went off near Azizieh square in government-controlled western Aleppo.

A reporter for the channel said celebrations resumed a few minutes after the bomb went off. Dozens of Syrians were seen dancing and waving Syrian flags and red balloons to blaring music as they rallied around a giant tree decorated with Christmas lights.

Huge posters of President Bashar Assad and the leaders of Russia and Hezbollah were put up.

The celebration in western Aleppo was taking place on the same day as the evacuation of the last rebels and residents of the former rebel-held enclave in eastern Aleppo was taking place.

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4:20 p.m.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says a cease-fire in Syria should not cover terrorist groups like the Islamic State group and the Fatah al-Sham Front, as well as Lebanon’s Hezbollah which fights on the government side.

Speaking at a Moscow news conference after talks with the foreign ministers of Russia and Iran, Cavusoglu said the global community should target not only IS and Fatah al-Sham but also “other groups including Hezbollah.”

Lebanon’s Hezbollah is allied with Russia and Iran fighting on the Syrian government’s side.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who chaired Tuesday’s talks, did not openly disagree with Cavusoglu. But he mentioned that some groups operating in Syria “were invited by the government of Bashar Assad,” implying that Hezbollah’s presence in Syria is as legitimate as Russia’s own role.

The Iranian minister said that Iran “respects” Turkey’s stance, but added that “other countries don’t accept” it.

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4:10 p.m.

A ceremony is being held at Ankara airport for assassinated Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov, whose body was being flown home to Russia Tuesday.

Karlov’s wife Marina stood in the front row, holding two red carnations. She wept as her husband’s flag-draped coffin was carried by a Turkish honor guard.

Deputy Prime Minister Tugrul Turkes said Karlov had, “become the eternal symbol of Turkish-Russian friendship.”

Karlov was shot dead Monday evening as he delivered a speech at a photo exhibition in the Turkish capital, Ankara. His attacker, Mevlut Mert Altintas, a 22-year-old member of Ankara’s riot police squad, shouted slogans about the battered Syrian city of Aleppo during the attack. He was later killed by police.

Security was tight at the airport, with security forces’ special units securing the area.

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3:40 p.m.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says that Russia, Iran and Turkey are ready to act as guarantors in a peace deal between the Syrian government and the opposition.

He spoke on Tuesday after a meeting of the three countries’ foreign ministers in Moscow — a day after Russia’s ambassador to Turkey was assassinated at an exhibition in Ankara by a policeman who shouted: “Don’t forget Aleppo! Don’t forget Syria!”

Lavrov told reporters the three ministers have signed a joint statement which says that Russia, Iran and Turkey “are expressing their willingness to help the Syrian government and the opposition draft an agreement and act as its guarantors.”

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3:20 p.m.

Syrian activists say as few as 3,000 people are left in eastern Aleppo awaiting evacuation before the government is to resume full control of the city after nearly six years of war.

Opposition media activist Ahmad Primo said on Tuesday that the next convoy of buses that will evacuate rebels and civilians may well be the last one. Primo spoke to The Associated Press from the Rashideen crossing between government and rebel-held territory in the Aleppo countryside.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says 60 buses have entered eastern Aleppo to pick up the remaining 3,000 fighters and their families from the opposition’s last foothold in the war-torn city.

The Observatory’s chief Rami Abdurrahman says the fate of 70 pro-government fighters taken prisoner by rebels over the course of four years of fighting over the rebel enclave remains unknown. He says they were supposed to be handed over to the government as part of an agreement to allow the opposition to evacuate the city

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2:15 p.m.

The U.N. humanitarian aid agency says Syria’s government has authorized U.N. plans to send about 20 staffers to monitor evacuations of people from rebel-held parts of eastern Aleppo.

Spokesman Jens Laerke of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday that “we stand ready to increase our presence there.”

The plan comes after the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution on Monday urging the quick deployment of monitors.

Laerke said U.N. staffers “will go there as soon as they can.” He said OCHA cannot estimate how many people remain in eastern Aleppo after buses shuttled some out on Tuesday.

He said about 90 of OCHA’s 100 staffers already in Aleppo are Syrians, and the new deployment would “almost triple” the number of international staffers there.

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12:40 p.m.

The spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin says the assassination the previous day of Moscow’s ambassador in Turkey plays into the hands of those who want to derail peace talks for Syria.

Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday that Ambassador Andrei Karlov’s murder “benefits those who want to drive a wedge between Russia and Turkey” as well as hamper “the normalization of the talks … for a Syrian political settlement.”

Peskov lauded President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision to allow Russian investigators to take part in the probe and described the Russians who arrived in Ankara earlier on Tuesday as “good specialists.”

Peskov quoted Putin who had instructed Russian intelligence and Foreign Ministry officials to review security measures for Russian diplomats abroad, but said it’s ultimately up to the countries who host diplomats to ensure their safety.

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12:30 p.m.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says he hopes that Russia, Iran and Turkey will agree on steps to bring about peaceful settlement in Syria.

Talks involving the foreign ministers of Russia, Iran and Turkey were planned for Tuesday in Moscow, even before the Russian ambassador was assassinated in Ankara on Monday evening.

Lavrov said in televised comments at the start of talks with Iran’s Mohammad Javad Zarif that Moscow wants Tuesday’s talks “to determine the most effective steps that our countries could take to normalize the situation in Syria, bring about an end to violence, and ensure the supply of humanitarian aid along with persisting in the fight against terrorist groups in Syria.”

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11:45 a.m.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says 10 more buses have arrived to the west Aleppo countryside in northern Syria evacuating residents from the opposition’s last foothold in eastern Aleppo.

Ingy Sedky, Damascus spokeswoman for the ICRC, says evacuations would continue throughout the day.

The ICRC says 25,000 people have been bused out of east Aleppo since rebels effectively surrendered the area under an Ankara- and Moscow-brokered deal. It’s unclear how many remain.

Meanwhile, Syrian state media say several more buses have arrived to the government-controlled Aleppo countryside after evacuating the sick and wounded from the rebel-besieged Shiite villages of Foua and Kfarya.

The swap evacuations are part of the Aleppo cease-fire deal — Syrian rebels besieging the two villages agreed to allow over 2,000 people to leave from there in exchange for the government allowing civilians and rebels to leave eastern Aleppo.

Pro-government Al-Ikhbariya TV broadcast live images showing buses arriving from Foua and Kfarya, escorted by International Committee of the Red Cross vehicles, on Tuesday.

The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah’s media arm says eight buses left the two villages earlier in the morning. Hezbollah is fighting alongside President Bashar Assad’s forces in Syria.

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11:35 a.m.

Russian state television has shown a plane landing at the Ankara airport carrying Russian investigators and Foreign Ministry employees who will take part in the probe into the assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the visiting Turkish foreign minister on Tuesday that the presidents of the two countries have agreed that Russian investigators would take part in the probe.

The state-owned Rossiya 24 television broadcast footage of the plane landing in Ankara. The plane would later in the day repatriate the body of Andrei Karlov, who was fatally shot at a photo exhibition on Monday.

The spokesman for the Russian president said earlier in the day that Moscow had dispatched 18 people to help the investigation.

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11:30 a.m.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey makes Moscow even more determined to press ahead with Syrian talks that will offer “no concessions to the terrorists.”

Lavrov is hosting the foreign ministers of Turkey and Iran in Moscow on Tuesday in what was expected to be a major meeting to discuss the Syrian crisis.

Lavrov and the visiting Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Tuesday laid flowers at the portrait of Ambassador Andrei Karlov, who was shot dead at an exhibition in Ankara.

The Russian minister said in televised comments that President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke Monday night and “agreed this tragedy makes us more decisive in fighting terrorism and makes our today’s meeting even more important.”

Lavrov says Moscow is willing to seek agreements that will improve the humanitarian situation in Syria and help political progress but “will not offer any concession to terrorists.”

Cavusolgu who told Lavrov at the start of the meeting that the attack happened when he was on his way to Moscow offered his condolences and said that “Turkish people are mourning this loss as much as Russia and the people of Russia.”

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10:55 a.m.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says it has overseen the evacuation of 25,000 people from eastern Aleppo since the rebels effectively surrendered the Syrian rebel enclave under an Ankara- and Moscow-brokered deal.

The figure was provided by Robert Mardini, the ICRC’s Mideast regional chief, who posted it on Twitter. Ingy Sedky, the ICRC spokeswoman in Damascus, told The Associated Press that Aleppo “evacuation (are) not over yet” and that there are “still thousands remaining” in eastern Aleppo.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah says Syrian army troops are to enter the rebels’ last foothold in Aleppo later in the day, marking the return of the entire city to government control.

Hezbollah, which is fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad forces, warned the remaining residents in the rebel enclave to leave “as quickly as possible.”

The warning was distributed through Hezbollah’s media arm on Tuesday.

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9:30 a.m.

The last Syrian rebels and civilians are awaiting evacuation from the remainder of what was once a rebel enclave in eastern Aleppo, a day after the U.N. Security Council approved sending observers to monitor the exodus.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that more than 15,000 people, among them 5,000 opposition fighters, have left the enclave since the rebels effectively surrendered the area under an Ankara- and Moscow-brokered deal. It’s unclear how many remain.

In Moscow, the foreign ministers of Russia, Turkey and Iran are meeting on Tuesday to discuss Syria, but the talks are likely to be overshadowed by the assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey the previous night by an Ankara policeman, who after killing his victim cried out: “Don’t forget Aleppo! Don’t forget Syria!”

40,000 Christians Feel Safer Under President Assad: Terrified ‘Rebels’ Will Return

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TED SHOEBAT’S WEBSITE)

Forty Thousand Christians Say That They Feel Safer Under Bashar Al-Assad And Are Terrified Of The Islamic Rebels Returning To Their Neighborhoods

By Theodore ShoebatForty thousand Christians living in Aleppo feel safer now that their city is under Bashar al-Assad — thanks to Russia — and fear the return of the Islamic rebels, as we read in one report:

The estimated 40,000 Christians in Aleppo are not among the civilians who are dreading the fall of the city to the Russia and Iran-backed regime of dictator Bashar al Assad, according to a charity group that helps persecuted Christians. These Christians instead reportedly fear the return of the rebels to Aleppo, particularly the jihadi coalition known as Jaish Al Fatah, or ‘Army of Conquest,’ that includes the likes of the Syrian al-Qaeda branch formerly known as the Nusra Front before it became Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (Front for the Conquest of the Levant).

Jaish Al Fatah has been “heavily involved” in the battle for Aleppo and the persecution of Christians in the city, claims the charity group Barnabas Fund.

Until recently, Aleppo city had been roughly divided between Assad regime control in the west and rebel control in the east since 2012.

The Russian government and the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which uses a network of ground sources to monitor the ongoing civil war in Syria, have declared that the Assad regime is now in control of Aleppo.

Russian-backed Assad forces and their Iranian-allied counterparts operating on the ground have been accused of “genocide” against civilians in the former rebel stronghold of eastern Aleppo.

The Perfect Weapon: How Russian Cyberpower Invaded the U.S.

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

WASHINGTON — When Special Agent Adrian Hawkins of the Federal Bureau of Investigation called the Democratic National Committee in September 2015 to pass along some troubling news about its computer network, he was transferred, naturally, to the help desk.

His message was brief, if alarming. At least one computer system belonging to the D.N.C. had been compromised by hackers federal investigators had named “the Dukes,” a cyberespionage team linked to the Russian government.

The F.B.I. knew it well: The bureau had spent the last few years trying to kick the Dukes out of the unclassified email systems of the White House, the State Department and even the Joint Chiefs of Staff, one of the government’s best-protected networks.

Yared Tamene, the tech-support contractor at the D.N.C. who fielded the call, was no expert in cyberattacks. His first moves were to check Google for “the Dukes” and conduct a cursory search of the D.N.C. computer system logs to look for hints of such a cyberintrusion. By his own account, he did not look too hard even after Special Agent Hawkins called back repeatedly over the next several weeks — in part because he wasn’t certain the caller was a real F.B.I. agent and not an impostor.

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“I had no way of differentiating the call I just received from a prank call,” Mr. Tamene wrote in an internal memo, obtained by The New York Times, that detailed his contact with the F.B.I.

It was the cryptic first sign of a cyberespionage and information-warfare campaign devised to disrupt the 2016 presidential election, the first such attempt by a foreign power in American history. What started as an information-gathering operation, intelligence officials believe, ultimately morphed into an effort to harm one candidate, Hillary Clinton, and tip the election to her opponent, Donald J. Trump.

Like another famous American election scandal, it started with a break-in at the D.N.C. The first time, 44 years ago at the committee’s old offices in the Watergate complex, the burglars planted listening devices and jimmied a filing cabinet. This time, the burglary was conducted from afar, directed by the Kremlin, with spear-phishing emails and zeros and ones.

What is phishing?

Phishing uses an innocent-looking email to entice unwary recipients to click on a deceptive link, giving hackers access to their information or a network. In “spear-phishing,” the email is tailored to fool a specific person.

An examination by The Times of the Russian operation — based on interviews with dozens of players targeted in the attack, intelligence officials who investigated it and Obama administration officials who deliberated over the best response — reveals a series of missed signals, slow responses and a continuing underestimation of the seriousness of the cyberattack.

The D.N.C.’s fumbling encounter with the F.B.I. meant the best chance to halt the Russian intrusion was lost. The failure to grasp the scope of the attacks undercut efforts to minimize their impact. And the White House’s reluctance to respond forcefully meant the Russians have not paid a heavy price for their actions, a decision that could prove critical in deterring future cyberattacks.

The low-key approach of the F.B.I. meant that Russian hackers could roam freely through the committee’s network for nearly seven months before top D.N.C. officials were alerted to the attack and hired cyberexperts to protect their systems. In the meantime, the hackers moved on to targets outside the D.N.C., including Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman, John D. Podesta, whose private email account was hacked months later.

Even Mr. Podesta, a savvy Washington insider who had written a 2014 report on cyberprivacy for President Obama, did not truly understand the gravity of the hacking.

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Charles Delavan, a Clinton campaign aide, incorrectly legitimized a phishing email sent to the personal account of John D. Podesta, the campaign chairman.

By last summer, Democrats watched in helpless fury as their private emails and confidential documents appeared online day after day — procured by Russian intelligence agents, posted on WikiLeaks and other websites, then eagerly reported on by the American media, including The Times. Mr. Trump gleefully cited many of the purloined emails on the campaign trail.

The fallout included the resignations of Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the chairwoman of the D.N.C., and most of her top party aides. Leading Democrats were sidelined at the height of the campaign, silenced by revelations of embarrassing emails or consumed by the scramble to deal with the hacking. Though little-noticed by the public, confidential documents taken by the Russian hackers from the D.N.C.’s sister organization, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, turned up in congressional races in a dozen states, tainting some of them with accusations of scandal.

In recent days, a skeptical president-elect, the nation’s intelligence agencies and the two major parties have become embroiled in an extraordinary public dispute over what evidence exists that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia moved beyond mere espionage to deliberately try to subvert American democracy and pick the winner of the presidential election.

Many of Mrs. Clinton’s closest aides believe that the Russian assault had a profound impact on the election, while conceding that other factors — Mrs. Clinton’s weaknesses as a candidate; her private email server; the public statements of the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, about her handling of classified information — were also important.

While there’s no way to be certain of the ultimate impact of the hack, this much is clear: A low-cost, high-impact weapon that Russia had test-fired in elections from Ukraine to Europe was trained on the United States, with devastating effectiveness. For Russia, with an enfeebled economy and a nuclear arsenal it cannot use short of all-out war, cyberpower proved the perfect weapon: cheap, hard to see coming, hard to trace.

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Following the Links From Russian Hackers to the U.S. Election

The Central Intelligence Agency concluded that the Russian government deployed computer hackers to help elect Donald J. Trump.

OPEN GRAPHIC

“There shouldn’t be any doubt in anybody’s mind,” Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency and commander of United States Cyber Command, said at a postelection conference. “This was not something that was done casually, this was not something that was done by chance, this was not a target that was selected purely arbitrarily,” he said. “This was a conscious effort by a nation-state to attempt to achieve a specific effect.”

For the people whose emails were stolen, this new form of political sabotage has left a trail of shock and professional damage. Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress and a key Clinton supporter, recalls walking into the busy Clinton transition offices, humiliated to see her face on television screens as pundits discussed a leaked email in which she had called Mrs. Clinton’s instincts “suboptimal.”

“It was just a sucker punch to the gut every day,” Ms. Tanden said. “It was the worst professional experience of my life.”

The United States, too, has carried out cyberattacks, and in decades past the C.I.A. tried to subvert foreign elections. But the Russian attack is increasingly understood across the political spectrum as an ominous historic landmark — with one notable exception: Mr. Trump has rejected the findings of the intelligence agencies he will soon oversee as “ridiculous,” insisting that the hacker may be American, or Chinese, but that “they have no idea.”

Mr. Trump cited the reported disagreements between the agencies about whether Mr. Putin intended to help elect him. On Tuesday, a Russian government spokesman echoed Mr. Trump’s scorn.

“This tale of ‘hacks’ resembles a banal brawl between American security officials over spheres of influence,” Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, wrote on Facebook.

Democratic House Candidates Were Also Targets of Russian Hacking

Over the weekend, four prominent senators — two Republicans and two Democrats — joined forces to pledge an investigation while pointedly ignoring Mr. Trump’s skeptical claims.

“Democrats and Republicans must work together, and across the jurisdictional lines of the Congress, to examine these recent incidents thoroughly and devise comprehensive solutions to deter and defend against further cyberattacks,” said Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Chuck Schumer and Jack Reed.

“This cannot become a partisan issue,” they said. “The stakes are too high for our country.”

A Target for Break-Ins

Sitting in the basement of the Democratic National Committee headquarters, below a wall-size 2012 portrait of a smiling Barack Obama, is a 1960s-era filing cabinet missing the handle on the bottom drawer. Only a framed newspaper story hanging on the wall hints at the importance of this aged piece of office furniture.

“GOP Security Aide Among 5 Arrested in Bugging Affair,” reads the headline from the front page of The Washington Post on June 19, 1972, with the bylines of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

Andrew Brown, 37, the technology director at the D.N.C., was born after that famous break-in. But as he began to plan for this year’s election cycle, he was well aware that the D.N.C. could become a break-in target again.

There were aspirations to ensure that the D.N.C. was well protected against cyberintruders — and then there was the reality, Mr. Brown and his bosses at the organization acknowledged: The D.N.C. was a nonprofit group, dependent on donations, with a fraction of the security budget that a corporation its size would have.

“There was never enough money to do everything we needed to do,” Mr. Brown said.

The D.N.C. had a standard email spam-filtering service, intended to block phishing attacks and malware created to resemble legitimate email. But when Russian hackers started in on the D.N.C., the committee did not have the most advanced systems in place to track suspicious traffic, internal D.N.C. memos show.

Mr. Tamene, who reports to Mr. Brown and fielded the call from the F.B.I. agent, was not a full-time D.N.C. employee; he works for a Chicago-based contracting firm called The MIS Department. He was left to figure out, largely on his own, how to respond — and even whether the man who had called in to the D.N.C. switchboard was really an F.B.I. agent.

“The F.B.I. thinks the D.N.C. has at least one compromised computer on its network and the F.B.I. wanted to know if the D.N.C. is aware, and if so, what the D.N.C. is doing about it,” Mr. Tamene wrote in an internal memo about his contacts with the F.B.I. He added that “the Special Agent told me to look for a specific type of malware dubbed ‘Dukes’ by the U.S. intelligence community and in cybersecurity circles.”

Part of the problem was that Special Agent Hawkins did not show up in person at the D.N.C. Nor could he email anyone there, as that risked alerting the hackers that the F.B.I. knew they were in the system.

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An internal memo by Yared Tamene, a tech-support contractor at the D.N.C., expressed uncertainty about the identity of Special Agent Adrian Hawkins of the F.B.I., who called to inform him of the breach.

Mr. Tamene’s initial scan of the D.N.C. system — using his less-than-optimal tools and incomplete targeting information from the F.B.I. — found nothing. So when Special Agent Hawkins called repeatedly in October, leaving voice mail messages for Mr. Tamene, urging him to call back, “I did not return his calls, as I had nothing to report,” Mr. Tamene explained in his memo.

In November, Special Agent Hawkins called with more ominous news. A D.N.C. computer was “calling home, where home meant Russia,” Mr. Tamene’s memo says, referring to software sending information to Moscow. “SA Hawkins added that the F.B.I. thinks that this calling home behavior could be the result of a state-sponsored attack.”

Mr. Brown knew that Mr. Tamene, who declined to comment, was fielding calls from the F.B.I. But he was tied up on a different problem: evidence suggesting that the campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Mrs. Clinton’s main Democratic opponent, had improperly gained access to her campaign data.

Ms. Wasserman Schultz, then the D.N.C.’s chairwoman, and Amy Dacey, then its chief executive, said in interviews that neither of them was notified about the early reports that the committee’s system had likely been compromised.

Shawn Henry, who once led the F.B.I.’s cyber division and is now president of CrowdStrike Services, the cybersecurity firm retained by the D.N.C. in April, said he was baffled that the F.B.I. did not call a more senior official at the D.N.C. or send an agent in person to the party headquarters to try to force a more vigorous response.

“We are not talking about an office that is in the middle of the woods of Montana,” Mr. Henry said. “We are talking about an office that is half a mile from the F.B.I. office that is getting the notification.”

“This is not a mom-and-pop delicatessen or a local library. This is a critical piece of the U.S. infrastructure because it relates to our electoral process, our elected officials, our legislative process, our executive process,” he added. “To me it is a high-level, serious issue, and if after a couple of months you don’t see any results, somebody ought to raise that to a higher level.”

The F.B.I. declined to comment on the agency’s handling of the hack. “The F.B.I. takes very seriously any compromise of public and private sector systems,” it said in a statement, adding that agents “will continue to share information” to help targets “safeguard their systems against the actions of persistent cybercriminals.”

By March, Mr. Tamene and his team had met at least twice in person with the F.B.I. and concluded that Agent Hawkins was really a federal employee. But then the situation took a dire turn.

A second team of Russian-affiliated hackers began to target the D.N.C. and other players in the political world, particularly Democrats. Billy Rinehart, a former D.N.C. regional field director who was then working for Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, got an odd email warning from Google.

“Someone just used your password to try to sign into your Google account,” the March 22 email said, adding that the sign-in attempt had occurred in Ukraine. “Google stopped this sign-in attempt. You should change your password immediately.”

Mr. Rinehart was in Hawaii at the time. He remembers checking his email at 4 a.m. for messages from East Coast associates. Without thinking much about the notification, he clicked on the “change password” button and half asleep, as best he can remember, he typed in a new password.

Iran to work on nuclear-powered marine vessels after U.S. ‘violation’ of deal

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS)

Iran to work on nuclear-powered marine vessels after U.S. ‘violation’ of deal

By Bozorgmehr Sharafedin and Shadia Nasralla | BEIRUT/VIENNA

Iran ordered its scientists on Tuesday to start developing systems for nuclear-powered marine vessels in response to what it calls a U.S. violation of its landmark 2015 atomic deal with world powers.

Nuclear experts however said that President Hassan Rouhani’s move, if carried out, would probably require Iran to enrich uranium to a fissile purity above the maximum level set by the nuclear deal to allay fears of Tehran building an atomic bomb.

Rouhani’s announcement marked Tehran’s first concrete reaction to a decision by the U.S. Congress last month to extend some sanctions on Tehran that would also make it easier to reimpose others lifted under the nuclear pact.

Rouhani described the technology as a “nuclear propeller to be used in marine transportation,” but did not say whether that meant just ships or possibly also submarines. Iran said in 2012 that it was working on its first nuclear-powered sub. reut.rs/2gVr80g

Rouhani’s words will stoke tensions with Washington, already heightened by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s vow to scrap the deal, under which Iran curbed its nuclear fuel production activities in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.

Rouhani also ordered planning for production of fuel for nuclear-powered marine vessels “in line with the development of a peaceful nuclear program of Iran”.

But under the nuclear settlement Iran reached with the United States, France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China, it is not allowed to enrich uranium above a 3.67 percent purity for 15 years, a level unlikely to be enough to run such vessels.

“On the basis of international experience, were Iran to go ahead with such a (nuclear propulsion) project, it would have to increase its enrichment level,” said Mark Hibbs, nuclear expert and senior fellow at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

CIVILIAN VERSUS MILITARY ENRICHMENT

“That’s the point, because Iran would be looking for a non-weapons rationale to provocatively increase its enrichment level in the case that the deal with the powers comes unstuck.”

He pointed out that countries with more advanced navies and nuclear programs have been working on propulsion reactors for decades. Such technology might need uranium enriched to around 20 percent purity.

A Russian Foreign Ministry source told RIA news agency that a careful reading of Rouhani’s order showed he was talking only about developing power-supply units for nuclear-powered marine vessels, but not higher-enriched uranium itself, so “strictly speaking” this would not contravene the nuclear deal.

But the source acknowledged that such vessels typically ran on higher-enriched uranium prohibited by the accord.

Edwin Lyman, a nuclear expert at the Washington-based Union of Concerned Scientists, said developing a reactor suited for higher-grade nuclear vessel fuel would take at least a decade.

“(But) these are unfortunate developments. We are very concerned about the future of the (nuclear deal) under the Trump administration and any signs of erosion … must be taken very seriously and immediately addressed by the international community,” Lyman told Reuters.

Rouhani accused the United States in a letter published by state news agency IRNA of not fully meeting its commitments under the nuclear deal.

“With regard to recent (U.S. congressional) legislation to extend the Iran Sanctions Act … I order the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran to … plan the design and construction of a nuclear propeller to be used in marine transportation.”

Members of the U.S. Congress have said the extension of the bill does not violate the nuclear deal that was struck last year to assuage Western fears that Iran was working to develop a nuclear bomb. The act, Congress added, only gave Washington the power to reimpose sanctions on Iran if it violated the pact.

Washington says it has lifted all the sanctions it needs to under the July 2015 deal between major powers and Iran.

Rouhani’s move followed recent remarks by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his hardline allies harshly criticizing the deal’s failure to yield any swift economic improvements in Iran. Khamenei said last month the U.S. Congress’s prolongation of some sanctions was a clear breach and the Islamic Republic would “definitely react to it”.

There was no immediate comment from the Vienna-based U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors Iran’s nuclear program.

(Additional reporting by Alexander Winning in Moscow and Parisa Hafezi in Ankara; editing by Mark Heinrich)

Mr. Trump Sticks Up For One Of Our Allies And The Cowards Start Whining

 

In the U.S. Media all I had heard for at least the first 24 hours after the event was Mr. Trump being blasted for calling the President of Taiwan, Ms. Tsai Ing-wen. This afternoon it took me reading about the event in the Times of Israel News Paper that Mr. Trump hadn’t actually called the President of Taiwan, the truth is that she called him. Evidently Mr. Trump was supposed to act like Mr. Obama did and say, no thank you, China’s leaders wouldn’t like that. There are so many reasons that the politicians in Washington D.C. are perceived as being weak kneed and undependable by most Countries throughout the world. Our Allies throughout the world are and have been worried that the U.S. will not help them if they are attacked by a larger Nation. Here in the U.S. our politicians are always playing games with real life issues. Our politicians only seem interested in increasing their bank accounts and conning people out of their vote, not in handling the real world issues that we voted them in office to do. Putting it bluntly, we have a bunch of cowards in the Congress and the Senate as well as someone bought and paid for in the Oval Office. This is not an issue with just one of our ‘National’ parties, it is both.

 

Earlier today I read in the Shanghai Daily News and the Times of Israel how the “American Chamber Of Commerce” in Beijing was worried about China clamping down on American businesses that are in China because of their ‘displeasure’ of Mr. Trump taking that phone call from Taiwan’s President. Here in the U.S. our great and wonderful “State Department” whom we all know is always looking out for the best interest of the American people also was chastising Mr. Trump for taking the call. They were more concerned about how China would react to this (basically treason) of breaking protocol regarding the “One China Policy.” Our Media have been talking of late how Mr. Trump has been ‘flying by the seat of his pants’ in regard to his actions instead of relying on ‘the professionals.’ Today the ‘unnamed’ representative at the State Department said that Mr. Trump needed to consult with them as they are the ones that sets what is proper protocol. To this arrogance I have only one thing to say, well, actually two things. One, it is the President who sets what Protocol is and will be, not midlevel ‘managers’ at the State Department. Two, I hope that people like this person at the State Department have their U-Haul trucks reserved for late January because there are going to be a lot of folks moving out of D.C. soon.

 

Taiwan is one of our Allies in Southeast Asia, China is just going to have to get over that fact. China has been trying to scare the life out of every Nation in the region of the South China Sea for at least the past two years minimum. I have no problem with the people of China at all. China could be a great friend to every Nation in the region if they chose to, the issue is their Government. Communism is and has always been an enemy of all people who simply want to have some freedom in their lives. In a lot of ways I think well of their current President Mr. Xi Jinping but he has a blade at his throat if he decided to step out of line with the Ruling Communist Party Leadership. I have one thing to tell Mr. Trump that I hope he will tell the Leadership in Beijing and that is that we agree about the ‘One China Policy’.  The issue is that the Country of Taiwan is not China, there is China and there is the Country of Taiwan, one China, one Taiwan, not two China’s. Communist Leaders only respect one thing in other Leaders and that is strength. If a leader of a Country is weak, China or Russia or North Korea will dominate you and take away all of your freedoms.

 

People of Nations that are supposed to be America’s Allies have been very scared for at least the past 8 years minimum that the U.S. would not come to their aid if they are attacked. Our current President is far more likely to issue sanctions against a Nation attacking one of our Allies than to actually physically assist them at getting the knife away from their throat. In the real world of blood, sweat and fears, both responses must be able to be counted on for people to feel any sense of safety. America’s leaders have spent at least the last 8 years cowering down to Russia and to China and the world is a much more dangerous place because of these actions. We have been trying to destroy relationships with our real Allies like Israel while showing indecision and weakness as well as ignorance in Middle East foreign policies in places like Libya and Syria. I did not vote for Mr. Trump nor did I vote for Hillary but I am old enough and wise enough to know that if the U.S. doesn’t quit acting like cowards toward Russia and China and start acting like we have a backbone and some basic intelligence, very soon, we are not going to have any Allies.

Massacre In Aleppo: Honestly How Can Anyone In The Whole World Be Surprised By This?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘MIDDLE EAST ONLINE’ NEWS)

First Published: 2016-12-02

Protests erupt in Istanbul over ‘Aleppo massacre’
Istanbul protests Syrian regime’s recent brutal assault on Aleppo, where Assad government aims to recapture all rebel-held areas.
Middle East Online

ISTANBUL – Around 1,000 people protested in Istanbul on Friday against the operation being waged by President Bashar al-Assad’s army in Syria’s second city of Aleppo, accusing them of committing a “massacre”.

“Stop the massacre in Aleppo!”, demonstrators chanted as they held placards saying “the bombing is not against Aleppo but our humanity” and “our brotherhood is besieged, not Aleppo”.

The protest outside Istanbul University had been organised by religious student associations who called for “imperialist Russia to leave Syria”.

In recent days, Assad’s army has pressed a fierce assault aimed at retaking the whole of the city which is currently divided between the regime in the west and the rebels in the east.

The offensive, supported by heavy artillery, has triggered an exodus of tens of thousands of residents from the rebel-held east as Assad made significant gains in the past week.

The assault has left 42 children dead, from a total of more than 300 civilians killed since November 15.

Moscow intervened militarily in support of Damascus last year but says it is not involved in the current assault on Aleppo. Turkey supports the Syrian opposition.

Protester Ramazan Kaya said Ankara should “raise its voice” against the regime offensive. “If we don’t react, if we stay like observers of this massacre — that is absolutely intolerable.”

On Friday Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu repeated Turkey’s opposition to Assad remaining president.

“We supported the Assad regime before he started killing his own people… But, at this stage, we have to be realistic that the person who kills almost 600,000 people should not rule any country,” he said during a visit to Lebanon.

Presidents Putin, Erdogan discuss Russia-Turkey relations on phone

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF AZERNEWS AGENCY)

Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say

November 24 at 8:27 PM
The flood of “fake news” this election season got support from a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy, say independent researchers who tracked the operation.Russia’s increasingly sophisticated propaganda machinery — including thousands of botnets, teams of paid human “trolls,” and networks of websites and social-media accounts — echoed and amplified right-wing sites across the Internet as they portrayed Clinton as a criminal hiding potentially fatal health problems and preparing to hand control of the nation to a shadowy cabal of global financiers. The effort also sought to heighten the appearance of international tensions and promote fear of looming hostilities with nuclear-armed Russia.

Two teams of independent researchers found that the Russians exploited American-made technology platforms to attack U.S. democracy at a particularly vulnerable moment, as an insurgent candidate harnessed a wide range of grievances to claim the White House. The sophistication of the Russian tactics may complicate efforts by Facebook and Google to crack down on “fake news,” as they have vowed to do after widespread complaints about the problem.

There is no way to know whether the Russian campaign proved decisive in electing Trump, but researchers portray it as part of a broadly effective strategy of sowing distrust in U.S. democracy and its leaders. The tactics included penetrating the computers of election officials in several states and releasing troves of hacked emails that embarrassed Clinton in the final months of her campaign.

“They want to essentially erode faith in the U.S. government or U.S. government interests,” said Clint Watts, a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute who along with two other researchers has tracked Russian propaganda since 2014. “This was their standard mode during the Cold War. The problem is that this was hard to do before social media.”

During a Facebook live discussion, reporter Caitlin Dewey explained how fake news sites use Facebook as a vehicle to function and make money. (The Washington Post)

Watts’s report on this work, with colleagues Andrew Weisburd and J.M. Berger, appeared on the national security online magazine War on the Rocks this month under the headline “Trolling for Trump: How Russia Is Trying to Destroy Our Democracy.” Another group, called PropOrNot, a nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds, planned to release its own findings Friday showing the startling reach and effectiveness of Russian propaganda campaigns.

The researchers used Internet analytics tools to trace the origins of particular tweets and mapped the connections among social-media accounts that consistently delivered synchronized messages. Identifying website codes sometimes revealed common ownership. In other cases, exact phrases or sentences were echoed by sites and social-media accounts in rapid succession, signaling membership in connected networks controlled by a single entity.

PropOrNot’s monitoring report, which was provided to The Washington Post in advance of its public release, identifies more than 200 websites as routine peddlers of Russian propaganda during the election season, with combined audiences of at least 15 million Americans. On Facebook, PropOrNot estimates that stories planted or promoted by the disinformation campaign were viewed more than 213 million times.

Some players in this online echo chamber were knowingly part of the propaganda campaign, the researchers concluded, while others were “useful idiots” — a term born of the Cold War to describe people or institutions that unknowingly assisted Soviet Union propaganda efforts.

Consider these points before sharing a news article on Facebook. It could be fake. (Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)

The Russian campaign during this election season, researchers from both groups say, worked by harnessing the online world’s fascination with “buzzy” content that is surprising and emotionally potent, and tracks with popular conspiracy theories about how secret forces dictate world events.

Some of these stories originated with RT and Sputnik, state-funded Russian information services that mimic the style and tone of independent news organizations yet sometimes include false and misleading stories in their reports, the researchers say. On other occasions, RT, Sputnik and other Russian sites used social-media accounts to amplify misleading stories already circulating online, causing news algorithms to identify them as “trending” topics that sometimes prompted coverage from mainstream American news organizations.

The speed and coordination of these efforts allowed Russian-backed phony news to outcompete traditional news organizations for audience. Some of the first and most alarming tweets after Clinton fell ill at a Sept. 11 memorial event in New York, for example, came from Russian botnets and trolls, researchers found. (She was treated for pneumonia and returned to the campaign trail a few days later.)

This followed a spate of other misleading stories in August about Clinton’s supposedly troubled health. The Daily Beast debunked a particularly widely read piece in an article that reached 1,700 Facebook accounts and was read online more than 30,000 times. But the PropOrNot researchers found that the version supported by Russian propaganda reached 90,000 Facebook accounts and was read more than 8 million times. The researchers said the true Daily Beast story was like “shouting into a hurricane” of false stories supported by the Russians.

This propaganda machinery also helped push the phony story that an anti-Trump protester was paid thousands of dollars to participate in demonstrations, an allegation initially made by a self-described satirist and later repeated publicly by the Trump campaign. Researchers from both groups traced a variety of other false stories — fake reports of a coup launched at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey and stories about how the United States was going to conduct a military attack and blame it on Russia — to Russian propaganda efforts.

The final weeks of the campaign featured a heavy dose of stories about supposed election irregularities, allegations of vote-rigging and the potential for Election Day violence should Clinton win, researchers said.

“The way that this propaganda apparatus supported Trump was equivalent to some massive amount of a media buy,” said the executive director of PropOrNot, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid being targeted by Russia’s legions of skilled hackers. “It was like Russia was running a super PAC for Trump’s campaign. . . . It worked.”

He and other researchers expressed concern that the U.S. government has few tools for detecting or combating foreign propaganda. They expressed hope that their research detailing the power of Russian propaganda would spur official action.

A former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael A. McFaul, said he was struck by the overt support that Sputnik expressed for Trump during the campaign, even using the #CrookedHillary hashtag pushed by the candidate.

McFaul said Russian propaganda typically is aimed at weakening opponents and critics. Trump’s victory, though reportedly celebrated by Putin and his allies in Moscow, may have been an unexpected benefit of an operation that already had fueled division in the United States. “They don’t try to win the argument,” said McFaul, now director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University. “It’s to make everything seem relative. It’s kind of an appeal to cynicism.”

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied interfering in the U.S. election or hacking the accounts of election officials. “This is some sort of nonsense,” Dmitry Peskov, press secretary for Putin, said last month when U.S. officials accused Russia of penetrating the computers of the Democratic National Committee and other political organizations.

RT disputed the findings of the researchers in an e-mail on Friday, saying it played no role in producing or amplifying any fake news stories related to the U.S. election. “It is the height of irony that an article about “fake news” is built on false, unsubstantiated claims. RT adamantly rejects any and all claims and insuations that the network has originated even a single “fake story” related to the US election,” wrote Anna Belkina, head of communications.

The findings about the mechanics of Russian propaganda operations largely track previous research by the Rand Corp. and George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.

“They use our technologies and values against us to sow doubt,” said Robert Orttung, a GWU professor who studies Russia. “It’s starting to undermine our democratic system.”

The Rand report — which dubbed Russian propaganda efforts a “firehose of falsehood” because of their speed, power and relentlessness — traced the country’s current generation of online propaganda work to the 2008 incursion into neighboring Georgia, when Russia sought to blunt international criticism of its aggression by pushing alternative explanations online.

The same tactics, researchers said, helped Russia shape international opinions about its 2014 annexation of Crimea and its military intervention in Syria, which started last year. Russian propaganda operations also worked to promote the “Brexit” departure of Britain from the European Union.

Another crucial moment, several researchers say, came in 2011 when the party of Russian President Vladimir Putin was accused of rigging elections, sparking protests that Putin blamed the Obama administration — and then-Secretary of State Clinton — for instigating.

Putin, a former KGB officer, announced his desire to “break the Anglo-Saxon monopoly on the global information streams” during a 2013 visit to the broadcast center for RT, formerly known as Russia Today.

“For them, it’s actually a real war, an ideological war, this clash between two systems,” said Sufian Zhemukhov, a former Russian journalist conducting research at GWU. “In their minds, they’re just trying to do what the West does to Russia.”

RT broadcasts news reports worldwide in several languages, but the most effective way it reaches U.S. audiences is online.

Its English-language flagship YouTube channel, launched in 2007, has 1.85 million subscribers and has had a total of 1.8 billion views, making it more widely viewed than CNN’s YouTube channel, according to a George Washington University report this month.

Though widely seen as a propaganda organ, the Russian site has gained credibility with some American conservatives. Trump sat for an interview with RT in September. His nominee for national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, traveled to Russia last year for a gala sponsored by the network. He later compared it to CNN.

The content from Russian sites has offered ready fodder for U.S.-based websites pushing far-right conservative messages. A former contractor for one, the Next News Network, said he was instructed by the site’s founder, Gary S. Franchi Jr., to weave together reports from traditional sources such as the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times with ones from RT, Sputnik and others that provided articles that often spread explosively online.

“The readers are more likely to share the fake stories, and they’re more profitable,” said Dyan Bermeo, who said he helped assemble scripts and book guests for Next News Network before leaving because of a pay dispute and concerns that “fake news” was crowding out real news.

In just the past 90 days — a period that has included the closing weeks of the campaign, Election Day and its aftermath — the YouTube audience of Next News Network has jumped from a few hundred thousand views a day to a few million, according to analytics firm Tubular Labs. In October alone, videos from Next News Network were viewed more than 56 million times.

Franchi said in an e-mail statement that Next News Network seeks “a global perspective” while providing commentary aimed at U.S. audiences, especially with regard to Russian military activity. “Understanding the threat of global war is the first step to preventing it,” he said, “and we feel our coverage assisted in preventing a possible World War 3 scenario.”

Correction: A previously published version of this story incorrectly stated that Russian information service RT had used the “#CrookedHillary” hastag pushed by then-Republican candidate Donald Trump. In fact, while another Russian information service Sputnik did use this hashtag, RT did not.

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